Copyright Issues

I’m not sure how many of you have a YouTube account, or have been paying attention to anything that’s been going on over there, but a chain reaction has started that, frankly, I’m finding to be extremely disturbing, and greatly unnerving. First off, let me start with what we know.

For years, the issue of copyright infringement has been a huge issue in the land of the Internet. That would pertain to anything, from written works such as what you’re reading right now, to works of art, videos, and music. If you’re in any kind of school right now, you’ll know first-hand about the issues of copyright, except in most cases, this is limited to papers and works of writing. Students have to cite their sources in Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), or whatever other acronym citation type, for their paper, or they are subject to getting a zero on their paper, or worse, being dropped from the class. While I agree that copyright infringement is a serious thing to be considerate about, and that the citation methods needed are a bit over the top, I fear that there is another copyright issue that is coming into play now that, frankly, I find absolutely ridiculous.

In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was brought into effect, extending the reach of copyright to the Internet as well. And when it comes to the issue of music, and music streaming on the Internet, this has become outrageous. Recently, one of my videos that I uploaded to YouTube from the Race For The Cure in 2008 (video link), had it’s sound muted from playing due to the fact that it had the song Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw playing in it’s background, stating that the song is owned by Warner Music Group (WMG), and that I do not have the proper permission to use the song. When reading further, YouTube shows reasons that are not valid in being able to use this music, and why. I found a few that stand out in a massive way.

  • I own the CD / DVD or bought the song online.

Buying a song, CD, DVD, or other piece of media doesn’t give you authorization to post that content on YouTube. The content owner still has the right to choose where it is distributed.

  • I gave credit in the description. Isn’t that enough?

No. Giving credit does not give you authorization to upload the content.

  • I’m not selling my video or trying to make money.

Whether or not you benefit financially from using the content doesn’t matter. Unless you have permission from the owner, it’s not yours to use.

Let’s look past the laws for a second, and just think about this, because in a realistic point of view, there’s just something wrong with this. First of all, you’ve legally paid for the music, yes, and, I can understand how that isn’t a good enough reason yet. Looking further though, I am not claiming this song as my own in any way, this song is owned by their respective owner, and credit is given in the description. In the case of my video, I specifically put the following into it’s description literally ten months ago, when the audio was still working perfectly fine.

Music: Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw (© CURB RECORDS)

By saying this, I’ve officially let anyone viewing the video, including the owner of the music themselves, that it is their property, and I am only using it to serve as, in this case, background music for a video that fits with this song perfectly, which brings me to the final point. Again, I understand the point of copyright laws, and that it IS their property, they created it, so they should receive money for the use of it outside of their control. But really, in 90% of these videos, especially in ones that you find on YouTube, they are solely there for the purpose of aiding make the video more whole. You are not using it to make a profit, or even any money at all. Branching off from this, I did some research into broadcasting music as well, because I’ve always been extremely interested in the streaming of music, as in a radio. This topic almost becomes very convoluted, and I happen to disagree with much of it, but, I won’t get ahead of myself. There are two main issues when it comes to streaming music through the Internet. First, in many cases, you need a license to be able to do so, and secondly, you need to pay royalties for each song that you play to that music label. On top of this, you must also comply to the DMCA, which when it comes to broadcasting, it downright stupid. The following are a few of the items involved in the DMCA for all online US broadcasters.

  • In any three-hour period, you should not intentionally program more than three songs (and not more than two songs in a row) from the same recording; you should not intentionally program more than four songs (and not more than three songs in a row) from the same recording artist or anthology/box set.
  • Rebroadcasts of programs can be performed at scheduled times three times in a two-week period (for programs of less than one hour) and four times (for programs of an hour or more).
  • Do not publish advance program guides or use other means to pre-announce when particular sound recordings will be played. However, a webcaster may name one or two artists to illustrate the type of music on a particular channel; and, DJ “teaser” announcement using artists’ names are permitted, but only those that do not specify the time a song will be played.

These requirements leave me speechless. I honestly couldn’t even begin to see the justification in these in any way. I shouldn’t say that, because, I can understand how they wouldn’t want a DJ to play the same song multiple times, due to the fact that it would rack up some serious unstable royalty fees towards a certain label, but that still doesn’t explain anything about these. In addition to that, in 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) increased rates for webcasters 300 to 1200 percent. Following this, many popular streaming music services, including AOL Radio, Yahoo! Radio and Pandora, have suffered greatly. Later in 2007, this rate was obviously fought by webcasters across the country, who formed a coalition called Savenetradio.org, and the Internet Radio Equality Act was brought into place. This forced a flat fee instead of a fee based on how many songs the station played. The fee came to either 0.33 cents ($0.0033) per hour of transmission, or 7.5 percent of the revenues brought in by the transmissions for that year. Following up on that information, here are some example rates before and after the rate change, using an example of fifteen songs for one hundred listeners each hour.

Copyright Royalty Board rates
2009: $23652 ($.0018/song * 15 songs/hour * 24 hours/day * 365 days/year * 100 average listeners/hour)

Internet Radio Equality Act rates
$2890.80 ($.0033/hour * 24 hours/day * 365 days/year * 100 average listeners/hour)

As you can see, it’s a massive change in the rates, and one that will save many streaming radio stations to come. For a small broadcaster, this would come to approximately $240.90 per month. Unfortunately, reading up on all of this hasn’t explained to me if this is the full fees that a broadcaster would be paying, or if there are still some hidden fees not included in these that must be paid as well. Either way, it can be a lot for a non-profit webmaster. Stopping and taking a look at the big picture though, I have many arguments towards the handling of internet radio broadcasting.

  • The broadcaster paid for the music they are broadcasting, so the record labels already have been paid once to begin with.
  • Anyone can make a burned mix CD and, technically, that is legal, so what is the difference with letting your friends hear music over the Internet.
  • Technically, you are doing nothing but streaming the music, so you are not sharing the music for download in any way at all.
  • By playing an artists music, you are, in the end, doing nothing but promoting them, and listeners will be more swayed to purchasing the song themselves if they like it, but without hearing it in the first place, they’ll never even consider to purchase it at all.
  • Many small broadcasters, 100-150 listeners, are completely non-profit, they aren’t making money off of playing someone’s music.

Obviously, my realistic points fall on deaf ears, as, chances are, they wouldn’t fly in a court of law, but, let’s be honest, as a human being, can you not see the point in all of this, in a most obvious way? My fears go a little deeper than just broadcasters though. Moving back to the original thought of music in general, I wonder when this will hit the school-wide level. With copyright infringement becoming such a major issue, I wonder when it is that no one will be allowed to use any works that aren’t theirs period, no matter the circumstance. Basically, standing back and looking at the full issue here, copyrights have become out of control, as humans are greedy, and looking for nothing but money in their lives. I refuse to give in to such rash ideas that our government has provided for us, and will always keep a realistic eye to things like these, because really, there becomes a point where having a heart, mind, soul and common sense just seems to disappear in our world.

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